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B'More Green
An environmental blog for everyday living
Pollution down, but Chesapeake Bay no healthier - yet

The Chesapeake Bay's ecological health has actually dipped slightly in recent years, even though pollution levels improved in 2013, according to federal scientists.

The amounts of nutrient and sediment pollution flowing into the bay fell in 2013 below the long-term average for the past 25 years, the U.S. Geological Survey reported Friday.

But most of the bay and the tidal portions of its rivers remain seriously impaired, the agency said, meeting just 29 percent of water-quality standards from 2011 to 2013.  That's down 2 percent from the previous three years.

"We're fluctuating on kind of a flat path for the moment," said Peter Tango, who oversees bay region water-quality monitoring for the survey.

Maryland and the other five bay states have been striving to meet a pollution "diet" imposed four years ago by the Environmental Protection Agency. While progress has been made in upgrading sewage treatment plants and taking steps to reduce polluted runoff, changing weather makes it hard to...

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Hogan's pick for natural resources secretary bows out

Gov. Larry Hogan has lost a member of his cabinet, even before he could be nominated.

Charles C. G. Evans Jr., whom Hogan had tapped to be secretary of natural resources, said Friday he has bowed out because he feared the rigors of managing the 1,300-employee department would take a toll on his health.

"With age comes some better judgment,," Evans, 75, said by telephone from his Cambridge home. "And in my case, the better judgment is pacing myself better."

Evans, a long-time developer who served as assistant natural resources secretary under former Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., said he's been working hard the past year for Hogan's election. In recent weeks, he said, he's been putting in long hours serving on Hogan's transition team, commuting to and from Annapolis every day.

He said he's had episodes of high blood pressure and some other minor health issues, though nothing debilitating.

"But I just sat back and thought, 'Holy Toledo! This is more than a full-time task,'" Evans...

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Hogan moves quickly to block controversial environmental regulations

In one of his first acts after taking office Wednesday, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan withdrew a handful of regulations proposed in the final weeks of the previous Democratic administration.

One hotly contested proposal would have curbed Eastern Shore farmers' use of poultry manure on their fields. Another of the blocked regulations would have clamped down on smog-forming air pollution from coal-burning power plants.

Three other regulations dealt with medical care, but the new administration didn't provide more detail.

Hogan halted publication of the five regulations set to appear in the Maryland Register on Friday, preventing them from taking effect, said Erin Montgomery, the new governor's press secretary.

Montgomery said Hogan has ordered a comprehensive review of all pending regulations, opening them up for further "public input, public hearing and full due process" before they can be finalized.

"We're pretty much hitting the pause button at this point and allowing for full review," she...

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Farm pollution rule to take effect - unless Hogan acts quickly

The O'Malley administration's 11th-hour move to curb Eastern Shore farmers' use of chicken manure as fertilizer appears likely to go through, unless incoming Republican Gov. Larry Hogan acts quickly Wednesday afternoon to stop it.

As one of his last acts before stepping down, Earl "Buddy" Hance, Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley's agriculture secretary, signed a "Notice of Final Action" to adopt the controversial "Phosphorus Management Tool" regulation on Friday. He then submitted it to the Maryland Register.

The rules, which are backed by environmentalists but opposed by Shore farmers and the poultry industry, are scheduled for publication in the Register on Friday. Under Maryland law, they would take effect 10 days later, on Feb. 2.

The rules, which the O'Malley administration had promised for years, are aimed at curbing nutrient pollution of the Chesapeake Bay from excessive uses of manure on farm fields. Many fields on the lower Shore, the heart of the state's poultry industry, are...

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Roads, not discounts, more of a concern around Greenway Farm

One hundred or so people attended a second hearing Tuesday night mainly to voice opposition to a proposal to reduce water and sewer connection fees for the Greenway Farm neighborhood in Havre de Grace.

Residents echoed the comments they made two weeks earlier at city hall.

During that session, however, the council did not have a quorum, which forced the official public hearing and the rest of the agenda for that evening to be postponed until this week. The hearing was moved to the Havre de Grace Community Center on Lagaret Lane to accommodate the large turnout expected.

Unlike the previous session, attended mostly by Bulle Rock residents, Monday's drew a handful of residents of the existing Greenway Farm community, who said they previously had no idea about the plans for their neighborhood.

"I want to know why we weren't directly made aware of the plans to build this complex in our community," Ashira Quabili, who lives on Martha Lewis Drive, said.

Tuesday's meeting wasn't combative,...

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Lead-paint oversight of rental housing faulted

Maryland regulators are still having trouble keeping tabs on how many rental housing units have hazardous lead paint, state auditors have found, even as the number of homes and apartments they must oversee to protect children from lead poisoning expands dramatically.

A legislative audit released last week found that the Maryland Department of the Environment failed to follow up on thousands of property owners who did not renew annual registrations in 2013. The agency identified 8,461 owners who were nearly a year late renewing registrations, according to auditors. But regulators failed to put more than 1,100 of those owners on a list used to find out why they had not re-registered their units.

The finding is similar to one from an audit released last April, when auditors said the environment department had failed to follow up on more than 900 rental units whose owners did not renew annual registrations through 2011.

State law has required for years that all housing units built before...

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